2nd of a 5 part series:  Former Board members as trainers

In a recent blog post, we began a discussion about how Board members rotating off your Board are an often overlooked resource for many Main Street organizations. Past Board member’s accumulated wisdom and good feelings about the organization are an exceptional asset for local Main Street organizations. This is the second of a five part series about keeping former board members involved when their term is up.

This blog piece explores how former Board members can make excellent trainers and continue to serve the organization as members of the Nominating committee.

Board members as trainers

Main Street never lacks for trained volunteers, and what better way to utilize a former Board member as a trainer of new recruits to your organization? Far from asking a former Board member to take on more or less meaningless advisory committee duties, I suggest that Board members should be asked to undertake discrete and specific tasks where their unique skills can be fully utilized by the organization.

One key role needed by each local Main Street organization is a trainer or orientation person. If a Board member about to rotate off the Board has the people skills necessary, and they are willing to continue their work for the organization, consider asking them to train new volunteers.  What I have in mind is a regularly occurring, but informal evening meeting, where your Board member can offer their insights about how new volunteers can help to advance the Main Street Approach™  as it is being used in your downtown.

Volunteers can be given a brief training session or a tour of the downtown. The former Board member can discuss the specific activities in the work plan that might be of interest.  As a longstanding volunteer and Board member, their wide-ranging involvement with the organization can be an excellent first impression about the volunteer workings of your local Main Street program.

Many local Main Street programs train their volunteers on the job and that is an excellent method.  Others may wish to establish formal mentoring or even training programs themselves to help volunteers fit in faster.  Trips to other successful Main Street programs are also an excellent means to train volunteers. Former Board members may already have relationships with nearby revitalization programs that can be cultivated for this purpose.

Board training and orientation

One especially fruitful training opportunity might be formal training or orientation of new Board members.  If you have an especially talented former Board member who has good nonprofit experience, they might be an excellent person to provide formal Board training for your organization if this is not already available from your state program.

If your organization undertakes an informal Board orientation after Board members are nominated, a former Board member might be willing to take on this role rather than staff.  Peer to peer conversations may be more helpful and permit the new Board member to ask questions they might not of staff. Former Board members might also be excellent “buddies” for new Board members, who might be able to explain much about the organizational traditions and cultures.

 Nominating committee members Former Board members are also excellent individuals to consider for seats on your Nominating Committee.  Review your bylaws for any membership requirements for your Nominating committee if you have a formal one already in place. I believe the Nominating Committee is one of the most important standing committees to have because it looks at the future needs of the organization and identifies talented people to serve.

 Nominating committee members must become very familiar with committee volunteers and network with the committee chairs to identify the next generation of “star” volunteers that need to be promoted up the ranks.  Former Board members may still have good relationships with other Board members and can network to identify volunteer talent in the committees. One tool I like using is a Board skills matrix, which shows in a graphic chart like format, the characteristics and traits that are needed to have a healthy and balanced revitalization Board of Directors. Former Board members can also offer organizational history to the Nominating Committee as they share their wisdom about the organization during committee deliberations. More ideas to come These are just a few ideas about how to continue to involve former Board members in the organization when their term has ended.  In future blog posts we will discuss how former Board members can help with future planning for the organization, and help the manager to undertake important research projects. This information was developed for a training session called “Keeping Former Board Members Involved When their Term is Done.” Please contact us if you wish to know more about this session. Look for these posts in the coming weeks.